Qualitative Political Communication| Trace Interviews: An Actor-Centered Approach

Elizabeth Dubois, Heather Ford


The current communications environment is characterized by a complex and hybrid system. Individuals use multiple digital platforms in various ways to communicate politically. This presents both theoretical and methodological challenges. As a response, we propose trace interviewing, an actor-centric method that employs visualizations of a user’s digital traces during the interview process. Trace interviews are useful for enhancing recall, validating trace data-generated results, addressing data joining problems, and responding to ethical concerns that have surfaced in the current era of surveillance and big data. If the challenges of the method are successfully navigated, trace interviewing could allow researchers to respond creatively to new questions about the current, complex political communication environment.


research methods, mixed methods, interviewing, social network analysis, data visualization, practice

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